Advertisement
News by VICE

Poland Will Pay Reparations to Suspected Terrorists Tortured at CIA Black Site

A European court determined that the prisoners were detained and subjected to waterboarding and other practices at a remote base in Poland run by US agents.

by Colleen Curry
Feb 18 2015, 11:37pm

Photo by Kevin Wolf/AP

Poland has said it will comply with a European court ruling ordering the country to compensate two suspected terrorists $262,000 in total for allowing the prisoners to be held and tortured at a CIA black site in Poland.

"We have to do it," Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said in an interview with Trójka Polish Radio Wednesday. "We are a law-abiding country."

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in July, 2014 that Poland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by allowing the CIA to torture prisoners Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah at a forest black site facility located in northeast Poland in 2002. The facility has since been shut down.

A "black site" refers to secret prisons the CIA operated in other countries after 9/11, which the CIA and host countries denied existed for years. Many of the locations of the black sites have been made public by human rights organizations and the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA detention and interrogation, known as the "CIA torture report," which was released in December.

Poland, Romania, Thailand, and Lithuania have all been identified as hosting black sites.

DOJ probe into alleged Senate and CIA torture report crimes is shrouded in secrecy. Read more here.

The court ruling determined Poland was complicit in the "inhuman and degrading treatment" of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri, who were later transferred to the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the pair currently remain in custody.

Al-Nashiri is a Saudi citizen suspected of plotting to bomb the US destroyer Cole in 2000, while Zubaydah is a suspected Pakistani terrorist charged with running an al Qaeda site in that country, according to the New York Times.

The ECHR ordered Polish authorities to pay 100,000 euro ($114,000) to al-Nashiri and 130,000 euro ($148,000) to Zubaydah. It also refused to grant Poland a request for an appeal in October.

Schetyna said the details of the payment of reparations to the prisoners will be revealed in coming weeks.

"There is a question of how the money will be spent and if we will have to pay it directly to the people who sued us," he said. "They will have a hard time using it, as they are still in jail."

Senate torture report finds the CIA was less effective and more brutal than anyone knew. Read more here.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's report has revealed that Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were subjected to waterboarding while at "Detention Site Blue," the codename used in the report for a base that correlates with the Polish black site.

The details of the Committee's report and the case presented to the ECHR indicate that five prisoners were held at the black site in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland, which is located three hours north of Warsaw. Another prisoner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks, was also waterboarded at the site, the report said.

The report also noted that psychologists performed much of the torture at Detention Site Blue, and quoted a number of cables about the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used against al-Nashiri that interrogators believed "may push [al-Nashiri] over the edge psychologically."

The Senate report concluded that the US government paid host countries in cash to get them to agree to host the sites. According to the Washington Post, CIA officials paid Polish intelligence officials $15 million in cash, stacked in cardboard boxes, for use of the site in Poland. 

Former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski admitted in December, 2014, after the release of the Senate report, that he knew about the sites, but denied knowing that torture took place inside.

"The Americans conducted their activities in such secrecy, that it raised our concerns," Kwasniewski said at a December press conference. "The Polish authorities acted to end these activities and they were stopped under pressure from Poland."

The CIA explains what they redacted from the Senate torture report — and why. Read more here.

Amrit Singh, a senior legal officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative, was one of the lawyers who represented Zubaydah and al-Nashiri in their case against Poland.

"I think this case has to be looked at in a broad context in which Poland was complicit in some of the most grave violations of the European convention, including violation of the prohibition against torture," Singh told VICE News today. "The court found, rightly, that Poland had violated the convention by collaborating with the CIA in such a way."

Singh emphasized that this is just one case, but there are many countries that were complicit in helping the CIA run its black site locations where torture was used during interrogations. She noted that the ECHR had previously found Macedonia guilty of allowing the CIA to torture a German citizen as Macedonian state police watched, and said that there are currently similar cases pending in Romania and Lithuania.

"Essentially this case relates to a secret program that the CIA propagated around the world with the cooperation of other governments and then CIA and other governments covered it all up and refused to acknowledge the truth," she said.

"Where illegal acts of torture occur, there should be effective investigations and reparations," Singh added. "This case is about one of the most fundamental principles enshrined in international law — the prohibition against torture."

The weird saga of the other 'smoking gun' torture report the CIA still has under wraps. Read more here.

Follow Colleen Curry on Twitter: @currycolleen